Business Screen Magazine, 1973
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man…
Business Screen Magazine, 1973
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man…
Ernst Halberstadt, “Elevated Railroad Structure…” (1973)
A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over me without leaving any impression.
— Samuel Johnson, Prayers and Meditations
Miroslav Sido, “Mother”
As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away…
That lingers in the garden there.
— Robert Louis Stevenson, “To Any Reader” (excerpt)
photograph by StockSnap via Pixabay
My tables—meet it is I set it down…
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
—T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men
Photograph by Bruce Mars via Pexels
Doth any here know me? This is not Lear.
Doth Lear walk thus? speak thus? Where are his eyes?
Either his notion weakens, his discernings
Are lethargied—Ha! Waking? ’Tis not so.
Who is it that can tell me who I am?
cf. video by Ventus17 via Pixabay
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!
You would play upon me;
You would seem to know my stops;
You would pluck out the heart of my mystery;
You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass;
and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ;
Yet cannot you make it speak…
Tom Hubbard, “…Troupes Dancing in the Square Are Joined by Young-In-Heart Spectator” (1973)
Thou shalt find
That I’ll resume the shape which thou dost think
I have cast off forever…
William Strode, “Magazines And Newspapers Litter The Intersection Of Sixth & Broadway…” (1972)
You must tell me something that you are sure is true —
I don’t care much what it may be, I will take your word for it.
Things get into a muddle with me…
—Mary Temple, letter to John C. Gray
cf. video by MikesPhotos via Pixabay
The lamentable change is from the best…
—Shakespeare, King Lear
Esther Bubley, “Students at Woodrow Wilson High School” (1943)
…his ideas were still in riot; there was ever the pain of memory; the regret for his lost youth — yet the waters of disillusion had left a deposit on his soul, responsibility and a love of life, the faint stirring of old ambitions and unrealized dreams. But — oh, Rosalind! Rosalind! . . .
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise
photograph by Zachary Staines via Unsplash
“…He, and another neighbour of mine, one Mr. Samuel Johnson, set out this morning for London together. Davy Garrick is to be with you early the next week, and Mr. Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy, and to see to get himself employed in some translation, either from the Latin or the French…”
—Letter from G. Walmsley to The Reverend Mr. Colson, March 2, 1737, quoted in Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
cf. Charles O’Rear, “Passengers of the Southwest Limited strolling beside the Amtrak train…” (1974)
When now the boy, whose childish thoughts aspire
To loftier aims, and make him ramble high’r,
Grown wild, and wanton, more embolden’d flies
Far from his guide, and soars among the skies…
If I didn’t try, how would I know? how would I know?
cf. Erik Calonius, “…Subway Car” (1973)
The first time was twenty years ago, when I left Princeton in junior year with a complaint diagnosed as malaria. It transpired, through an X-ray taken a dozen years later, that it had been tuberculosis—a mild case, and after a few months of rest I went back to college… To me college would never be the same. There were to be no badges of pride, no medals, after all. It seemed on one March afternoon that I had lost every single thing I wanted… A man does not recover from such jolts—he becomes a different person, and, eventually, the new person finds new things to care about…
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Pasting It Together”
Cincinnati Magazine, 1971
The barge she sat in, like a burnish’d throne,
Burn’d on the water: the poop was beaten gold;
Purple the sails, and so perfumed that
The winds were love-sick with them; the oars were silver,
Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
The water which they beat to follow faster,
As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
It beggar’d all description: she did lie
In her pavilion–cloth-of-gold of tissue–
O’er-picturing that Venus where we see
The fancy outwork nature: on each side her
Stood pretty dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
With divers-colour’d fans, whose wind did seem
To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
And what they undid did.
—Antony and Cleopatra
(Comes towards her and leans over the back of a chair.)
Are you fretting yourself, ma’am, about anything?
Don’t be. He was always like that, meandering off by himself somewhere. He is a curious bird, Master Richard, and always was. Sure there isn’t a turn in him I don’t know. Are you fretting now maybe because he does be in there (pointing to the study) half the night at his books? Leave him alone. He’ll come back to you again. Sure he thinks the sun shines out of your face, ma’am.
—James Joyce, Exiles
You got that radioaction
Brighter than a sunny day…
Photograph by mvp via Unsplash
…since that philosopher took not the slightest notice of Alexander, and continued to enjoy his leisure in the suburb Craneion, Alexander went in person to see him; and he found him lying in the sun. Diogenes raised himself up a little when he saw so many persons coming towards him, and fixed his eyes upon Alexander. And when that monarch addressed him with greetings, and asked if he wanted anything, “Yes,” said Diogenes, “stand a little out of my sun.”
Lady Bracknell: A hand-bag?
—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
cf. D.A. Sigerist, “Two men and a woman dancing three hand reel” (ca. 1905)
LAVINIA: Stop! I want you to explain the telegram.
JULIA: Explain the telegram? What do you think, Alex?
ALEX: No, Julia, we can’t explain the telegram.
LAVINIA: I am sure that you could explain the telegram.
I don’t know why. But it seems to me that yesterday
I started some machine, that goes on working,
And I cannot stop it; no, it’s not like a machine—
Or if it’s a machine, someone else is running it.
But who? Somebody is always interfering …
I don’t feel free … and yet I started it …
–T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party
cf. Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Four Ladies Sitting around a Table…” (detail) (1758)
and Eugène Atget, “Bar de Cabaret” (ca. 1900)
cf. Henry Farrer, Winter Scene in Moonlight (1869) and video: “stock footage – STARS – Time Lapse – Night”
Although crowds gathered once if she but showed her face,
And even old men’s eyes grew dim, this hand alone,
Like some last courtier at a gypsy camping place,
Babbling of fallen majesty, records what’s gone.
The lineaments, a heart that laughter has made sweet,
These, these remain, but I record what’s gone. A crowd
Will gather, and not know it walks the very street
Whereon a thing once walked that seemed a burning cloud.
–W.B. Yeats, Fallen Majesty
99, I’ve been waiting so long…
Now the long blade of the sun, lying
Level east to west, touches with glory
Thebes of the Seven Gates. Open, unlidded
Eye of golden day! O marching light…
—Sophocles, Antigone (Tr. by Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald)
Traveling down the sandy track
Compass in hand, guitar on my back…
cf. photograph by Ben White (edit) via Unsplash
Terry Eiler, Walkers in Dust Storm (ca. 1972)
In my native country, in the bosom of my religion, family, and friends, I should have passed a calm and peaceful life in the uniformity of a pleasing occupation, and among connections dear to my heart…
Instead of this — what a picture am I about to draw! — Alas! why should I anticipate the miseries I have endured? The reader will have but too much of the melancholy subject.
—Rousseau, Confessions (Tr. by W. Conyngham Mallory)
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Cervantes—a patient gentleman who wrote a book—has been sitting in the Elysian fields for three centuries and gazing sadly around, awaiting the birth of a grandson capable of understanding him.
—José Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Quixote
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me…
Library and Information Services Metropolitan State University, Star Wars Party (2015)
Alan Fisher, Lou Ambers tips his hat as he accepts a sandwich from a hand reaching out of a doorway (1935)
Drop, drop—in our sleep, upon the heart
sorrow falls, memory’s pain,
and to us, though against our very will,
even in our own despite,
–Aeschylus, Agamemnon (Edith Hamilton, trans., “Three Greek Plays”)
Esther Bubley, A geometry teacher…using a model to explain a figure (1943)
…she at last blushed, adjusted her dress, got up, and, without saying a word, went and seated herself at the window. I went to sit by her side, but she moved, sat down on a couch, got up immediately afterwards, and fanning herself as she walked about the chamber, said to me in a cold and disdainful tone of voice, “Zanetto, lascia le donne, e studia la matematica.” (“Johnny, give up women and study mathematics.”)
cf. U.S. National Archives, Photograph of Guests at Refreshment Table… (detail) (1963)
Jack: You really love me, Gwendolen?
Jack: Darling! You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.
Gwendolen: My own Ernest!
Jack: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?
Gwendolen: But your name is Ernest.
Jack: Yes, I know it is. But supposing it was something else? Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?
Gwendolen: [Glibly.] Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.
Jack: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest… I don’t think the name suits me at all.
Gwendolen: It suits you perfectly. It is a divine name. It has a music of its own. It produces vibrations.
Jack: Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names. I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.
Gwendolen: Jack?… No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations… I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John! And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John. She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude. The only really safe name is Ernest.
Jack: Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once. There is no time to be lost…
–Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Left: Solaris (1972)
Right: Bartolomeo Pinelli, Aeneas and the shade of Dido (detail)
“She probably sensed that I didn’t really love her. But now I do…”
With tears, and pray’rs, and late-repenting love…
–Virgil, The Sixth Book of the Aeneis
“Dr. Adams told me that Johnson, while he was at Pembroke College, ‘was caressed and loved by all about him, was a gay and frolicksome fellow, and passed there the happiest part of his life.’ But this is a striking proof of the fallacy of appearances, and how little any of us know of the real internal state even of those whom we see most frequently…”
—Boswell’s Life Of Johnson
T. M. Weaver, “Far From The Madding Crowd” (ca. 1911)
He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:
“The horror! The horror!”
—Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
cf. Edvard Munch, The Scream (1893)
“Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—…”
cf. Photograph by Jamie MacPherson via Unsplash
self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)
—e.e.cummings, my sweet old etcetera (excerpt)
More and more I’m thinkin’ ’bout love…
“Sometimes, when I see the little red mail plane fly in from Acapulco at seven in the morning over the strange hills…I think that you will be on it, on that plane every morning as it goes by, and will have come to save me. Then the morning goes by and you have not come…Yvonne come back to me, hear me, it is a cry, come back to me, Yvonne, if only for a day…”
—Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano
Sometimes I pretend you’ll come back again
And you’ll console the heart you stole…
In the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct…
–Dante Alighieri, Inferno
David Falconer, The Gas Shortage in the Pacific Northwest… (detail) (1973)
cf. E. C. Thompson, Interior showing a dining table set with silver and crystal (ca. 1870)
and photograph by Kace Rodriguez (detail) via Unsplash
Emily: Mama, I’m here. I’m grown up. I love you all. Everything. I can’t look at everything hard enough. Good morning, Mama…
—Thornton Wilder, Our Town
Joseph A. Horne, Children with radishes grown in the Fairlawn Avenue Victory gardens (1943)
ESTRAGON: Ah! (Pause. Despairing.) What’ll we do, what’ll we do!
VLADIMIR: There’s nothing we can do.
ESTRAGON: But I can’t go on like this!
VLADIMIR: Would you like a radish?
ESTRAGON: Is that all there is?
VLADIMIR: There are radishes and turnips.
ESTRAGON: Are there no carrots?
VLADIMIR: No. Anyway you overdo it with your carrots.
ESTRAGON: Then give me a radish.
—Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
Francis William Edmonds, The City And Country Beaux (detail) (Oil on canvas) (ca. 1838)
Miss Shepherd being the one pervading theme and vision of my life, how do I ever come to break with her? I can’t conceive. And yet a coolness grows between Miss Shepherd and myself. Whispers reach me of Miss Shepherd having said she wished I wouldn’t stare so, and having avowed a preference for Master Jones—for Jones! a boy of no merit whatever!
–Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
Marry him or marry me
I’m the one that loves you baby can’t you see?
I ain’t got no future or family tree
But I know what a prince and lover ought to be…
Imagine a young man, alone, without anyone.
The moment a few raindrops streaked his glass
he began to scribble.
He lived in a tenement with mice for company.
I loved his bravery.
Someone else a few doors down
played Segovia records all day.
He never left his room, and no one could blame him.
At night he could hear the other’s
typewriter going, and feel comforted.
Literature and music.
Everyone dreaming of Spanish horsemen
Processions. Ceremony, and
Days of rain and high water.
Leaves hammered into the ground finally.
In my heart, this plot of earth
that the storm lights.
–Raymond Carver, “Aspens” from All of Us: Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf)
Northeastern University Course Catalog (1982-83)
Somehow, the summer seemed to slip by faster this time. Maybe it wasn’t this summer, but all the summers that, in this my fortieth summer, slipped by so fast. There comes a time when every summer will have something of autumn about it. Whatever the reason, it seemed to me that I was investing more and more in baseball, making the game do more of the work that keeps time fat and slow and lazy.
–A. Bartlett Giamatti, “The Green Fields of the Mind” (excerpt)
“…the point for me is that he understands.”
“Yes,” Fanny Assingham cooed, “understands—?”
“Well, what I want. I want a happiness without a hole in it big enough for you to poke in your finger.”
“A brilliant, perfect surface—to begin with at least. I see.”
“The golden bowl—as it WAS to have been.”
And Maggie dwelt musingly on this obscured figure.
“The bowl with all our happiness in it. The bowl without the crack.”
—Henry James, The Golden Bowl
Stop and take a big breath
Begin with something hollow…
Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Polishing the Brass (1912)
Tom Hubbard, Strolling Among Pigeons at Fountain Square (1973)
He with a smile did then his words repeat;
And said that, gathering leeches, far and wide
He travelled; stirring thus about his feet
The waters of the pools where they abide.
“Once I could meet with them on every side;
But they have dwindled long by slow decay;
Yet still I persevere, and find them where I may…”
And soon with this he other matter blended,
Cheerfully uttered, with demeanour kind,
But stately in the main; and, when he ended,
I could have laughed myself to scorn to find
In that decrepit Man so firm a mind.
“God,” said I, “be my help and stay secure;
I’ll think of the Leech-gatherer on the lonely moor!”
—William Wordsworth, Resolution and Independence
Three days in the rain and I ain’t had no sleep
But I won’t break down now, I got a promise to keep
Showing my determination…
“Planning to pay him out she tiptoed very early the next morning into Lytton’s bedroom, taking a pair of scissors with which she intended to snip away his beard while he slept. It was to be one of those devastating practical jokes of which she was so fond – a perfect revenge for his audacity. But the plan misfired. As she leant over him, Lytton opened his eyes and looked at her. It was a moment of curious intimacy, and she, who hypnotized so many others, was suddenly hypnotized herself.”
—Michael Holroyd, Lytton Strachey: The New Biography
She’s a wizard with her sheers
She’s been turning heads for years…
From “American Cookery” (1914)
Scene: Morning-room at the Manor House.
[Gwendolen and Cecily are at the window, looking out into the garden.]
Gwendolen: The fact that they did not follow us at once into the house, as any one else would have done, seems to me to show that they have some sense of shame left.
Cecily: They have been eating muffins. That looks like repentance.
—Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
Edwin Austin Abbey, Valentine rescues Sylvia – Act V, Scene IV, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Pen and ink) (1892)
cf. National Photo Company Collection, Man and woman in automobile (ca. 1920) and photograph by Wil Stewart via Unsplash
“Once in the middle twenties I was driving along the High Corniche Road through the twilight with the whole French Riviera twinkling on the sea below. As far ahead as I could see was Monte Carlo…It was not Monte Carlo I was looking at. It was back into the mind of the young man with cardboard soles who had walked the streets of New York. I was him again—for an instant I had the good fortune to share his dreams, I who had no more dreams of my own. And there are still times when I creep up on him, surprise him on an autumn morning in New York or a spring night in Carolina when it is so quiet that you can hear a dog barking in the next county. But never again as during that all too short period when he and I were one person, when the fulfilled future and the wistful past were mingled in a single gorgeous moment—when life was literally a dream.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Early Success”
Standing on top of the world for a little while…
F. Holland Day, Peggy Lee Writing (1898)
“My life consists, and has essentially always consisted, of attempts at writing, largely unsuccessful. But when I don’t write, I wind up on the floor at once, fit for the dustbin…it soon became evident that I had to spare myself on all sides, relinquish a little everywhere to retain just enough strength for what seemed to me my main purpose…I once made a detailed list of the things I have sacrificed to writing and the things that were taken from me for the sake of writing or rather whose loss could be endured only with this explanation…So If there is a higher power that wishes to use me, or does use me, I am at its mercy, at least as a well-crafted instrument; if not, I am nothing at all and will find myself in a frightful void.”
—Letter from Franz Kafka to Felice Bauer, November 1, 1912
I seize the descending man and raise him with resistless will,
O despairer, here is my neck,
By God, you shall not go down! hang your whole weight upon me.
—Walt Whitman, Song Of Myself
William MacGregor Paxton, The Breakfast (1911)
MANDERS: It almost makes me dizzy. Your whole married life, the seeming union of all these years, was nothing more than a hidden abyss!…
MRS. ALVING: I had gone on bearing with him, although I knew very well the secrets of his life out of doors. But when he brought the scandal within our own walls—
MANDERS: Impossible! Here!
MRS. ALVING: Yes; here in our own home…
MANDERS: [Moved.] And you were able to bear all this!
MRS. ALVING: I had to bear it for my little boy’s sake. But when the last insult was added; when my own servant-maid—…
–Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts
Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., “…Men’s clothing II” (1953)
“As his eyes passed from one to another, the determination to possess objects that even surpassed these tormented the young man. He devoted himself more and more resolutely to the search…”
—Virginia Woolf, Solid Objects
The persuasion that I shall see her no more will kill me. My dear Brown, I should have had her when I was in health, and I should have remained well. I can bear to die — I cannot bear to leave her. Oh, God! God! God! Every thing I have in my trunks that reminds me of her goes through me like a spear. The silk lining she put in my travelling cap scalds my head. My imagination is horribly vivid about her — I see her — I hear her. There is nothing in the world of sufficient interest to divert me from her a moment. This was the case when I was in England; I cannot recollect, without shuddering, the time that I was a prisoner at Hunt’s, and used to keep my eyes fixed on Hampstead all day. Then there was a good hope of seeing her again — Now! — O that I could be buried near where she lives! I am afraid to write to her — to receive a letter from her — to see her handwriting would break my heart — even to hear of her anyhow, to see her name written, would be more than I can bear. My dear Brown, what am I to do? Where can I look for consolation or ease? If I had any chance of recovery, this passion would kill me. Indeed, through the whole of my illness, both at your house and at Kentish Town, this fever has never ceased wearing me out. When you write to me, which you will do immediately, write to Rome (poste restante)— if she is well and happy, put a mark thus +; if ——…
—Letter from John Keats to Charles Brown (November 1, 1820)
“For auld lang syne.” The weary throat gave out,The last word wavered; and the song being done,He raised again the jug regretfullyAnd shook his head, and was again alone.There was not much that was ahead of him,And there was nothing in the town below—Where strangers would have shut the many doorsThat many friends had opened long ago.
—Edwin Arlington Robinson, “Mr. Flood’s Party”
The place was dark. Was it so late that they had all gone to bed? Had Lucinda stayed at the Westerhazys’ for supper? Had the girls joined her there or gone someplace else? Hadn’t they agreed, as they usually did on Sunday, to regret all their invitations and stay at home? He tried the garage doors to see what cars were in but the doors were locked and rust came off the handles onto his hands. Going toward the house, he saw that the force of the thunderstorm had knocked one of the rain gutters loose. It hung down over the front door like an umbrella rib, but it could be ﬁxed in the morning. The house was locked, and he thought that the stupid cook or the stupid maid must have locked the place up until he remembered that it had been some time since they had employed a maid or a cook. He shouted, pounded on the door, tried to force it with his shoulder, and then, looking in at the windows, saw that the place was empty.
—John Cheever, “The Swimmer”
I don’t know you anymore
Name and face have been obscured
Change them if you want but
I don’t know you anymore…
Edward Penfield, Arrow washed handkerchiefs… (ca. 1920) and Room from a hotel in the Cours d’Albret, Bordeaux
Max: This probably isn’t anything, but I found this in the car, between the front seats. (He shows her a soiled and blood-stained white handkerchief.)
Annie: What is it?
Max: Henry’s handkerchief…It’s not true, is it?
Max: Oh, God. (He stands up.) Why did you?…
Annie: I’m awfully sorry, Max, but I love him.
Max: Oh, no.
—Tom Stoppard, “The Real Thing”
Othello: By heaven, I saw my handkerchief in’s hand.
O perjured woman! thou dost stone my heart…
I saw the handkerchief.
William Merritt Chase, At the Window (ca. 1889)
(Cambridge, September 1864)
Susan Gilbert Dickinson
at Centre of the Sea –
I am glad Mrs. Gertrude lived –
I believed she would –
Those that are worthy of Life are of Miracle,
for Life is Miracle,
and Death, as harmless as a Bee –
except to those who run
It would be best to see you –
it would be good to see the Grass,
and hear the Wind blow the wide way in the Orchard –
Are the Apples ripe –
Have the Wild Geese crossed –
Did you save the seed to the Pond Lily?
Love for Mat, and John, and the Foreigner –
And kiss little Ned in the seam in the neck, entirely for Me –
The Doctor is very kind –
I find no Enemy –
Till the Four o’Clocks strike Five,
Loo will last, she says.
Do not cease, Sister.
Should I turn in my long night,
I should murmur “Sue”
Photograph by Alejandra Quiroz via unsplash.com
Are you fretting now maybe because he does be in there [pointing to the study] half the night at his books?
Leave him alone. He’ll come back to you again.
Sure he thinks the sun shines out of your face, ma’am.
—James Joyce, “Exiles”
You got that radioaction
Brighter than a sunny day
I wear a lot of protection
Just to keep all your sun away…
cf. State Library and Archives of Florida, Walking on a rainy day in Tallahassee (detail) (1961)
“…he mentioned that he could not in general accuse himself of having been an undutiful son. “Once, indeed (said he), I was disobedient; I refused to attend my father to Uttoxeter-market. Pride was the source of that refusal, and the remembrance of it was painful. A few years ago I desired to atone for this fault; I went to Uttoxeter in very bad weather, and stood for a considerable time bareheaded in the rain, on the spot where my father’s stall used to stand. In contrition I stood, and I hope the penance was expiatory.”
–James Boswell, The Life Of Samuel Johnson
Love and mercy, that’s what you need tonight…
Anonymous (After Guido Reni?), “A man holding a book, about to write in it, looking upwards to the left, after Reni?” (17th century)
A young writer is tempted…to be guided by the known, the admired and the currently accepted, as he hears a voice whisper within himself, “Nobody would be interested in this feeling I have, this unimportant action – therefore it must be peculiar to me, it must not be universal nor generally interesting nor even right.” But…some other voice in that crossroads makes him write down those apparently exceptional and unimportant things and that and nothing else is his style, his personality – eventually his whole self as an artist. What he has thought to throw away…was the saving grace vouchsafed him.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, letter to Morton Kroll, August 3, 1939
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
Harold Gilman, Edwardian Interior (c.1907)
Her secrets: old featherfans, tasselled dancecards, powdered with musk, a gaud of amber beads in her locked drawer. A birdcage hung in the sunny window of her house when she was a girl…
Phantasmal mirth, folded away: muskperfumed.
And no more turn aside and brood.
Folded away in the memory of nature with her toys.
—James Joyce, Ulysses
Doris Ulmann, Man Working At A Pottery Wheel (ca. 1930)
His first movement after the shock had been to work in his loom; and he went on with this unremittingly, never asking himself why, now he was come to Raveloe, he worked far on into the night to finish the tale of Mrs. Osgood’s table-linen sooner than she expected—without contemplating beforehand the money she would put into his hand for the work. He seemed to weave, like the spider, from pure impulse, without reflection. Every man’s work, pursued steadily, tends in this way to become an end in itself, and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life…
—George Eliot, Silas Marner
Frédéric Bazille, Bazille’s Studio (Detail)
[Morning-room in Algernon’s flat in Half-Moon Street. The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room.]
[Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has ceased, Algernon enters.]
Algernon: Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?
Lane: I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.
Algernon: I’m sorry for that, for your sake. I don’t play accurately—any one can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.
Lane: Yes, sir.
–Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Tomorrow he would go up to the New Albion, in his best suit and overcoat (he must remember to get his overcoat out of pawn at the same time as his suit), in hat of the correct gutter-crawling pattern, neatly shaved and with his hair cut short. He would be as though born anew. The poet of today would be hardly recognizable in the natty young business man of tomorrow. They would take him back, right enough; he had the talent they needed. He would buckle to work, sell his soul, and hold down his job…
He would get married, settle down, prosper moderately, push a pram, have a villa and a radio and an aspidistra. He would be a law-abiding little cit like any other law-abiding little cit– a soldier in the strap-hanging army. Probably it was better so…
Vicisti, O aspidistra!
—George Orwell, Keep the Aspidistra Flying
But all this excitement had exhausted me and I dropped heavily on to my sleeping plank. I must have had a longish sleep, for, when I woke, the stars were shining down on my face. Sounds of the countryside came faintly in, and the cool night air, veined with smells of earth and salt, fanned my cheeks. The marvelous peace of the sleepbound summer night flooded through me like a tide. Then, just on the edge of daybreak, I heard a steamer’s siren. People were starting on a voyage to a world which had ceased to concern me forever. Almost for the first time in many months I thought of my mother.
Albert Camus, The Stranger
Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which—once, twice, and again—he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue…Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene—perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is!
Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge
Emma Justine Farnsworth, “Sea Bright, Dade & Jean” (between 1886 and 1912)
“Do you hate me?”
“Oh no,” said Catherine.
Something in her tone discouraged him, but in a moment he recovered himself. “Have you still some kindness for me, then?”
“I don’t know why you have come here to ask me such things!” Catherine exclaimed.
“Because for many years it has been the desire of my life that we should be friends again.”
–Henry James, Washington Square
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all the
winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused a good
stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till Ulysses
reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe…
a wave caught him and took him with such
force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and torn to
pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do…
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his own
destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him…
–Homer, The Odyssey, Book V
Pfc. Monica Brown cracked open the door of her Humvee outside a remote village in eastern Afghanistan to the soft pop of bullets shot by Taliban fighters. But instead of taking cover, the 18-year-old medic grabbed her bag and ran through gunfire toward fellow soldiers in a crippled and burning vehicle. Vice President Cheney pinned Brown, of Lake Jackson, Tex., with a Silver Star in March for repeatedly risking her life on April 25, 2007, to shield and treat her wounded comrades, displaying bravery and grit. She is the second woman since World War II to receive the nation’s third-highest combat medal.
–Washington Post, May 1, 2008
…and again he got a feeling of unreality, as if the world showed a small but deﬁnite tendency to slip into the peculiar and grotesque; a sensation which the resumption of the pounding work of the engine kept him from exploring fully, as the ship returned to its course through the San Marco canal.
–Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice”
“Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a colour as the visible absence of colour; and at the same time the concrete of all colours; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows—a colourless, all-colour of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues—every stately or lovely emblazoning—the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colourless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge—pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, who refuse to wear coloured and colouring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?”
–Herman Melville, Moby Dick
Dean and I are embarked on a tremendous season together. We’re trying to communicate with absolute honesty and absolute completeness everything on our minds. We’ve had to take benzedrine. We sit on the bed, crosslegged, facing each other. I have finally taught Dean that he can do anything he wants, become mayor of Denver, marry a millionairess, or become the greatest poet since Rimbaud. But he keeps rushing out to see the midget auto races. I go with him. He jumps and yells, excited.
One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window. For instance, they had this headmaster, Mr. Haas, that was the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life. Ten times worse than old Thurmer. On Sundays, for instance, old Haas went around shaking hands with everybody’s parents when they drove up to school. He’d be charming as hell and all. Except if some boy had little old funny-looking parents. You should’ve seen the way he did with my roommate’s parents. I mean if a boy’s mother was sort of fat or corny-looking or something, and if somebody’s father was one of those guys that wear those suits with very big shoulders and corny black-and-white shoes, then old Hans would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he’d go talk, for maybe a half an hour, with somebody else’s parents. I can’t stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy. I hated that goddam Elkton Hills.
It was a wonderful night. Central City is two miles high; at first you get drunk on the altitude, then you get tired, and there’s a fever in your soul. We approached the lights around the opera house down the narrow dark street; then we took a sharp right and hit some old saloons with swinging doors. Most of the tourists were in the opera. We started off with a few extra-size beers. There was a player piano. Beyond the back door was a view of mountainsides in the moonlight. I let out a yahoo. The night was on. The night was getting more and more frantic…the sordid hipsters of America, a new beat generation that I was slowly joining.
Anyway, I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street. I thought I’d just go down, down, down, and nobody’d ever see me again. Boy, did it scare me. You can’t imagine. I started sweating like a bastard–my whole shirt and underwear and everything. Then I started doing something else. Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.” And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner. But I kept going and all. I was sort of afraid to stop, I think–I don’t remember, to tell you the truth. I know I didn’t stop till I was way up in the Sixties, past the zoo and all. Then I sat down on this bench. I could hardly get my breath, and I was still sweating like a bastard. I sat there, I guess, for about an hour. Finally, what I decided I’d do, I decided I’d go away. I decided I’d never go home again and I’d never go away to another school again.
With the flashlight to illuminate my way, I climbed the steep walls of the south canyon, got up on the highway streaming with cars Frisco-bound in the night, scrambled down the other side, almost falling, and came to the bottom of a ravine where a little farmhouse stood near a creek and where every blessed night the same dog barked at me. Then it was a fast walk along a silvery, dusty road beneath inky trees of California – a road like in The Mark of Zorro and a road like all the roads you see in Western B movies. I used to take out my gun and play cowboys in the dark.
Scott, your last fragments I arrange tonight,
Assigning commas, setting accents right,
As once I punctuated, spelled and trimmed
When, passing in a Princeton spring—how dimmed
By this damned quarter-century and more!—
You left your Shadow Laurels at my door.
That was a drama webbed of dreams: the scene
A shimmering beglamored bluish-green
Soiled Paris wineshop; the sad hero one
Who loved applause but had his life alone;
Who fed on drink for weeks; forgot to eat,
“Worked feverishly, ” nourished on defeat
A lyric pride, and lent a lyric voice
To all the tongueless knavish tavern boys,
The liquor-ridden, the illiterate;
Got stabbed one midnight by a tavern-mate—
Betrayed, but self-betrayed by stealthy sins—
And faded to the sound of violins…
—Edmund Wilson, Excerpt from the Dedication to The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald
“PHILOSOPHICAL” DIALOGUES BETWEEN SOCRATES (S) AND AN IMAGINARY INTERLOCUTOR (ii):
S: Wittgenstein at a restaurant or we can dine at home.
ii: Bertrand, can you Russell up some dinner for me?
S: Francis, Bacon sure smells great when it’s cooking doesn’t it?
ii: That hits Lamarck.
S: I Goethe go.
ii: Rousseau long!
S: Let’s play Heidegger seek!
ii: I Kant find you!
S: Hegel, what’s going on?
ii: We were supposed to go Schopenhauers ago!
S: Don’t put Descartes before the horse! We’ve Spinoza this many times before.
ii: John, Locke the front door and we’ll get going.
S: Foucault? I didn’t hear the phone ring.
ii: Hume are you referring to?
S: Camus come over to visit today?
ii: I’m Newton town so I’m not sure where to go.
S: I’ll Nietzsche in front of my house. Drive Pascal and then take the next left. Husserl can you get here?
ii: Is your house Nietzsche and clean?
S: Rousseau it is. I really Fichte this place up. It looks great. Kierkegaard-en I told you about with lots of flowers.
ii: If that’s Sartre than i’m a Hottentot.
S: Santayana wants me, Lord, I can’t go back there!
ii: Don’t Thoreau your life away!
“…will we walk all night through solitary streets?
The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?…”
“A Supermarket in California” (excerpt), Allen Ginsberg